Meet the Heat: Duncan Robinson Is a Low-Key Difference-Maker

The 2019-20 Miami Heat could be short on shooting. A big year from Duncan Robinson can change that.

Duncan Robinson isn't supposed to be here.

It's not like he snuck past the Keiser Security guards to get inside Miami Heat training camp or anything, but considering the odds he faced, that might've been a more believable story.

He spent his high school career at The Governor's Academy in Byfield, Mass., then did a postgraduate season at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. Without a D-I offer on the table, he opened his college career at nearby Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. But he did enough during his freshman year to finally attract big-college interest, so he transferred to Michigan, where he hit the ground sprinting and played pivotal roles for three straight tournament teams, including the 2018 NCAA runner-ups.

Undrafted in 2018, Robinson scored a summer-league pact with the Heat, then shot his way into a two-way contract. One year later, he's closing in on a full-time NBA gig, as Miami has already guaranteed $1 million of his $1.4 million salary.

How, exactly, does all of this happen? Even Robinson struggles putting it into words.

Press him for the source of his perseverance in getting this far, and he says there are too many to mention.

"A lot of people [helped]," Robinson told Heat Maven, "couldn't point at just one. A lot of coaches, family members, my support system, quite honestly a lot of luck, a lot of timing, things breaking your way and just trying to put your down, focus on what's important and staying locked in on a goal."

A lot of shooting went into this, too, and that's what potentially transforms Robinson from an end-of-bench roster-filler into a rotation member of a team with major playoff aspirations.

The 6-foot-8 forward packs a three-point cannon on his right side. Over his three seasons at Michigan, he shot a blistering 41.9 percent from distance. Last year, he converted an absurd 48.3 percent of his long-range looks for Miami's G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

"I've said this for a while, he's one of the best shooters on this planet," head coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He just has to prove it now. He's put in the work. ... That stroke, three-point shot is not there by accident. There's a lot of house behind the scenes when no one's watching. Now he just has to put it to the wood when the games count."

Miami might need Robinson more than casual fans think.

Last season, the Heat's 34.9 percent perimeter conversion rate ranked just 21st in the Association. Their top newcomer, four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, does a ton of good things inside the lines, but his three-ball isn't an obvious strength. For his career, he's averaged 0.9 makes per game on 34.1 percent shooting.

Miami's defensive outlook is strong. A top-five finish in efficiency on that end is by no means out of the question.

But its offensive potential is tougher to gauge. The Heat need spacers for this to work—for Butler to dust defenders on isolations, for Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters to attack downhill, for the runways to stay cleared long enough for Derrick Jones Jr. and Bam Adebayo to take flight.

Robinson potentially helps scratch that itch, but he must be consistent from distance, know when to launch and when to keep the ball moving and, since we're talking about a Spoelstra-led squad, be ready to hold his own on the defensive end.

That's a tall ask of a 25-year-old with 15 NBA games under his belt. But considering how he's defied the odds several times over, why can't he keep proving everyone wrong?

"Every single day is just an opportunity to maximize each individual player," Robinson said. "There's just a focus on if you put a bunch of good days together in a row, then you'll have something to show for it in the end. I'm just here trying to buy into that as much as possible, because quite honestly that's a big part of what's gotten me here in the first place."

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